Sunday, 31 March 2013

Mate Choice in Mice Is Heavily Influenced by Paternal Cues, Mouse Study Shows


Mar. 28, 2013 — Hybrid offspring of different house mice populations show a preference for mating with individuals from their father's original population.

Mate choice is a key factor in the evolution of new animal species. The choice of a specific mate can decisively influence the evolutionary development of a species. In mice, the attractiveness of a potential mate is conveyed by scent cues and ultrasonic vocalizations. Researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology in Plön investigated whether house mice (Mus musculus) would mate with each other even if they were from two populations which had been separated from each other for a long time period. To do this, the researchers brought together mice from a German population and mice from a French population. Although to begin with all the mice mated with one another randomly, the hybrid offspring of French and German parents were distinctly more choosy: they showed a definite preference for mating with individuals from their father's original population. According to the researchers, this paternal imprinting accelerates the divergence of two house mouse populations and thus promotes speciation.

In allopatric speciation, individuals of a species become geographically isolated from each other by external factors such as mountains or estuaries. Over time, this geographic separation leads to the sub-populations undergoing various mutations, and thus diverging genetically. Animals from the two different sub-populations can no longer successfully reproduce, so two new species evolve.

To find out what role partner selection plays in such speciation processes, Diethard Tautz from the Max Planck Institutefor Evolutionary Biology and his colleagues conducted a comprehensive study on house mice -- the classic model organisms of biology. "To investigate whether there are differences in the mating behaviour of the mice in the early stages of speciation, we caught wild house mice in southern France and western Germany. The two populations have been geographically separate for around 3,000 years, which equates to some 18,000 generations," says Diethard Tautz. Due to this geographical separation, the French and German mice were genetically different.

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